Many Dutch pride themselves on having a religiously tolerant society. The diversity of religions is accepted and evident throughout the country through the various places of worship. In the Netherlands, 28% of the population identify as Roman Catholic, 19% identify as Protestant, and 11% identify with some other religion. Nearly half of the population (42%) does not identify with any religion (CIA World Factbook, 2009).
Secularisation in the Netherlands
During the 1960s and 1970s, ‘pillarization’ began to decline (see ‘Pillarization and Social Stratification’ in Core Concepts). This sparked the rapid secularisation of the Netherlands. Today, religion continues to play a decreasing role in people’s social and cultural lives. In Dutch society, atheism is acknowledged and accepted. Indeed, just under half of the population (42%) do not identify with any religion. In a 2014 survey conducted by the Gallup Poll, 75.5% of the Dutch population agreed that religion was not important for their daily lives.
While religion may be playing a decreasing role in the lives of many Dutch, spirituality continues to be respected. The term ‘ietsisme’ (“somethingism”) refers to a sense of spirituality or ‘faith without religion’. Those who identify with ietsisme believe that there may be some greater being or force beyond the world while not subscribing to an established belief system.
Moreover, some religions like Islam continue to grow. The majority of the Muslim population in the Netherlands reside in and around the Randstad and tend to be migrants from the Middle East and North Africa. Thus, it seems that religion remains a significant cultural force. In turn, some argue that the Dutch society is undergoing a transformation rather than a secularisation.
Christianity in the Netherlands
Christianity has had a longstanding presence in the Netherlands. Today, it is on the decline, and many who identify as Christian do not regularly attend church. For some, Christianity is used in the way of cultural identification rather than as a religious identity. Despite the decrease of religion in the lives of many Dutch, religion continues to play a major role in the small rural communities located in the Dutch Bible Belt. Moreover, nearly a fifth of the total population (19%) identify with Catholicism, making it the most common Christian denomination to date.